How to choose the best autumn flowers to warm you up!

Autumn flowers
Thistle, eryngium

The best autumn flowers are now available – summer dahlias and all year round picture perfect gerbera are mixed with physalis, nutans, lisianthus and gentian to create amazingly colourful bouquets that make you feel warm inside. It’s like a celebration of the end of summer, glowing colours like an autumn bonfire.
Many flowers are now available all year round, but most do have a time when they are at their best. At Stems we tend to reflect the season not only by that, but also by our colour combinations. The oranges, golds, reds and browns reflect the colours we see in nature in the autumn, so autumn flowers, to us, are about the colours.
The reappearance of Chinese lanterns and gourds are a lovely reminder of the proximity of Bonfire Night and Halloween.
So how to find the best autumn flowers? Go and visit your local florist and remember that only a small proportion of what is available can be found in supermarkets. You can also add to your choices by foraging yourself. Who knows – you might even find something edible too!
There is so much foliage to choose from, and it’s a great way to produce a large display at low cost. It can also add height to a displays. We stock pistache, eucalyptus, fern, aspidistra, fatsia, oak and other seasonal folige, depending on what looks good.

Rainbows, autumn leaves, bonfires, the golden sunshine of autumn are all reflected in our new range of bouquets in-store and the online shop.
If you’re looking for weekly office flowers, you’d be surprised at the choice of flowers available. Too often it seems that only exotic flowers are used in office displays. There are many indigenous flowers that can be used if displayed in the right way. Some of them can ecen be dried – Chinese lanterns, twisted willow..
We also incorporate gourds and pumpkins in our displays. Images to follow in other posts!
I haven’t been foraging this week, but I have been photographing the flowers and foliage in the countryside which are mentioned in Shakespeare’s works, compiling a gallery for future reference. It’s a beautiful book – Botanical Shakespeare, by Gerit Quealy. Great for a birthday or Christmas gift for flower lovers!
Talking of foraging, go out and pick up some conkers if you get the chance. Put them in a bowl, and apparently they keep spiders away! You can also find sweet chestnuts, acorns and masses of muti-coloured leaves form the plane trees and chestnuts.
You can also harvest lavender and hydrangea from the garden for drying, pick rosehips to add to vases of flowers in the house, and pick herbs to freeze for the winter months.
I’m picking myrtle and mint from the garden to add to the bouquets and make them scented. Thay are at their strongest at this time of year.
When the sky looks grey and outside looks uninviting from the cosiness of your home, try throwing on a waterproof jacket and going out anyway. The sky looks less grey, the autumn winds are exhilarating and you may well find some interesting things to forage. I love the way the moss becomes a vibrant green and the grass recovers.
We made an interesting display at The Italian Embassy in London for Ferrero Rocher a while back, using the best autumn flowers, and incorporated moss and conkers with orange roses, physalis and cymbidium orchids. It really reflected the colour and delicious nuttiness of Ferrero Rocher!
During the hot, summer months we crave coolness and I love the soft pinks, mauves and whites that belong with this time. But now I want warmth and golden sunshine in my flowers.
With globalisation comes better availability. Just as we have adopted the Curry, we have adopted the exotic Bird of Paradise (strelitzia) flowers. Orange plumes with a stripe of indigo, tall stems and a stately appearance, they go beautifully with the autumn flowers. When the plumes die, cut them off, then carefully tease out a new plume from inside the beak. THis is a great tip for keeping them twice as long!
You can varnish gourds so that they keep for longer. They are beautiful shapes, and look great in a bowl in the middle of the table.
So if you’d like a bouquet with the best of autumn flowers, email janet@stemsfloraldesign.com or phone 020 7831 6776. WE will make you something beautiful!

Foraging and Shakespeare’s flowers

Foraging for flowers mentioned in Shakespeare’s work has been our project of the week. It has been great fun.
I was given a copy of Gerit Quealy’s beautiful book, Botanical Shakespeare, so I could do the reaearch required and compile a list of possible flowers and foliage, (and fruit and vegetables) available at this time of year to obtain for an event at The Sloane Club on Thursday, hosted by Country Life Magazine.
It was too late in the year for the lovely spring meadow flowers, such as violets and crocuses, but many of the vegetables and herbs are now flowering, so we had alliums, fennel, lettuce – and beautiful blackberries and elderberries, as well as some lovely little mushrooms!
Burdock and erigons kept company with scented bachelor’s buttons – also known as scented fern, or tansy.
Shakespeare gave the flowers and foliage a magical property – from the lethal hebenon in Hamlet to the scented herbs and roses in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The turnip and the burdock are all about love and courtship. How wonderful that we still have them around us to bring this era back to life!
The book has beautiful illustrations of all the flowers, foliage, fruit and vegetables in Shakespeare’s work, and they are listed by play and by character.
Emily Carding, http://onewomanrichard.weebly.com gave a mesmerising performance at the book launch on Thursday. Emily will be performing at The Edinburgh Festival in August.
If you would like a copy of the book, go to botanicalshakespeare.com

Buy yourself some of the best 5 English garden flowers


The best 5 English garden flowers are amongst my favourites.I’ve just been away on holiday, and the flowers on Kefalonia were wonderful, but for me, you can’t beat English summer flowers.
If I’d travelled earlier in the year, I would have had the opportunity of seeing all the wild flowers Kefalonia has to offer – they are particularly abundant on Mount Aenos, home of the beautiful Cefalonian fir tree.
On my walks, I did see ( and smell) wild oregano, rosemary, oleander and stunning bougainvillea, but much of the smaller flora was straw coloured, baked by the hot sun.
I couldn’t resist getting my garden scissors out of the kitchen drawer, wandering around my garden and cutting my myrtle, lavender, lemon balm, Buddleia, Chilean potato plant and sweet peas to make a lovely bouquet. If you make a bouquet from the flowers in your garden, it is best to remove quite a bit of the foliage from the stems before arranging the flowers. Also, steep them in lukewarm, deep water for a while, so they have a good drink. This will make them last longer.
It’s obviously a matter of taste, but my favourite 5 English summer garden flowers are:
DIGITALIS, or foxgloves. Pretty speckled glove-shaped flowers that grow really tall.
AQUILEGIA, or pixie caps. They flower in early summer, and leave a pretty seed pod that can be dried and used in autumn displays
LAVENDER. For its sweeping bushes and amazing scent and healing properties. It is good for relaxation and sleep. I love the gentle grey of it’s tiny leaves, and watching the busy bees resting on the tiny flowers.
ALCEA, or hollyhocks look fabulous as they grow tall and attract the butterflies to your garden. you’re left with tight little purses full of seeds for next year. During Victorian times, the hollyhock was a symbol of ambition and fertility, probably due to its height and the profusion of seeds in the little purses after flowering.
NIGELLA , or black cumin. The alternative name for this is love-in-the-mist. If you peer through the furry stems of these star shaped flowers, it looks all misty. Sissinghurst Castle’s white garden has a wonderful show of white nigella in the summer.

The best ten flowers to dry


I’m going to name my top ten flowers to dry as those that are readily available, reasonably priced, and look great in displays. But it is also fun to experiment with drying any flowers you want to keep after a special occasion, or a lovely one you chance upon. If it doesn’t dry well, you can always press it.
I find that I naturally dry flowers – leftover flowers in the shop and in late summer, beautiful blooms in the garden that will soon be destroyed by autumn winds or frost.
Number one has to be the rose – available in so many colours. Dry in a cool, dark place and hang upside down to stop the heads from drooping. You can make them unfurl a bit once dried by holding the in the steam of the kettle for a few moments.
Number two is hydrangea. If you’re lucky enough to have them in the garden, just let them dry on the bush. They don’t even need to be hung. The petals are so strong that you can spray paint them. I like an antique gold tinge at Christmas.
Three is statice. If you’re making a tied bouquet, blocks of statice help the other flowers stand perfectly. It holds the colour well too. Dried flowers can look faded, so this gives density.
Four is the poppy head. Strong, and adds texture to your display.
Five is craspedia – gorgeous little yellow spheres that always make me feel happy.
Number six is gypsophila. Gyp crowns for weddings have been popular this season. Take a look on Instagram and Pinterest.co.uk. Gyp keeps its voluminous quality when dried.
Number seven is larkspur. Long, spikey clusters in pink, mauve and white will add height to your composition.
Eight is lavender. A fabulous scent, best used in clusters.
Number nine is Alpine thistle. You can find some really large blooms in the summer months, adding a fabulous focal point to your display.
Last but not least is nigella. I look at them and remember the delicate love-in-a-mist of summer.
Dried bouquets look good tied simply with raffia or garden string. You can hang them upside down, put them in a vintage jar, or have rhem in a vase on the kitchen table.